Consider, if you will, the components that fall directly under the term aggression. What is aggression and, perhaps more importantly, how does it show itself on a football field?
Aggression can take many forms, including but not limited to that of a dirty player. While there are dirty players on this list, not every aggressive player can be considered dirty.
Sometimes aggression presents itself in the form of a hard-hitting assassin or a guy with an unyielding motor. Aggressive players may even find their outlet through psychological means. However, in order to make this list and be honored as one of the most aggressive to play the game, each will have to demonstrate some combination of traits separating them from the rest of the league.
The 10 men who make up this list share a commonality. They are the most aggressive football players the NFL currently has to offer. For one reason or another, when these guys line up in front of you, expect a long, miserable day that will likely conclude with an even more painful night in bed.
It hasn’t taken long for Bernard Pollard’s aggressive tendencies to show up on full display for his new teammates in Tennessee. According to Jim Wyatt of USA Today, the outspoken and often intense safety got into an altercation with tight end Craig Stevens just over a week ago.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. After all, confrontation has never been avoided by Pollard, especially on the field.
This bone-shattering defensive back cracks the list due to his infamous reputation as a bully and one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the NFL.
His fearlessness at the point of contact has cost him some serious cash throughout the years. But as long as it costs opposing teams more, like their star players on offense, he’ll continue to walk that fine line of legality.
“Beast Mode” aptly describes the frame of mind of Marshawn Lynch on game days. It’s basically his way of articulating a passion and relentlessness within (fueled by Skittles), which few running backs possess.
Lynch is indeed the most aggressive running back in the NFL. Even each of his steps slam into the turf with so much intensity that you fear for the longevity of his knees after all the pounding they take.
But if you think either the ground or his knees have it rough, try tackling this guy when he’s coming straight at you in full stride. Few defenders successfully bring him down on their own, and this guy fears no contact. In fact, he relishes it.
No list of NFL players involving aggression could possibly exist without mentioning Dashon Goldson. During his time with the San Francisco 49ers, Goldson has established himself as the tone-setter for one of the greatest defenses in franchise history.
Go ahead and turn on any 49ers game, and you’ll see Goldson blazing into the frame like a bullet, slamming head-first into a once-confident runner. By the time the runner hits the ground, he often loses much more than the ball—he loses the will to run again. That constant bombardment on ball-carriers has been a key component toward the demoralization of several 49ers opponents.
This year, Goldson will be tasked with bringing that aggressive mentality to the Buccaneers’ revamped secondary. His presence on that defense is sure to bring a new swagger to yet another team looking to add a little "Gold" in its life.
James Harrison only knows how to play this sport one way: violently.
As a result, he is likely one of the most-fined players in the history of the league. It’s safe to say NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should stay at least an arm's length away from Harrison at all times if he wishes not to get blood on his expensive suits.
In an ESPN poll (via Pro Football Talk) that asked NFL players who they thought was "the most violent, dangerous player in the NFL," Harrison's colleagues responded overwhelmingly in his direction, receiving 67.5 percent of all the votes.
Although Richard Sherman does happen to be one of the most physical cornerbacks in the NFL, he makes this list largely because of his psychological aggression. This endless verbal onslaught can be so infuriating for opponents that it actually throws their game completely off.
Because of this, Sherman is widely considered one of the most disliked players in the league, perhaps for good reason.
However, when he isn’t yapping it up with opponents on the field, Sherman also has the size and strength to beat receivers up all day, completely preventing them from a clean release at the line.
If you're still skeptical as to whether Sherman is an aggressive person, just watch the way he picks a fight with Skip Bayless on ESPN’s First Take (video shown above).
Perhaps no other name in the NFL personifies aggression like Ndamukong Suh. Just hearing his name conjures up images of Suh rag-dolling quarterbacks like he was in a street brawl, stomping on groins or giving the forearm shiver to a player’s back with whiplash-like violence.
Some might even wonder if Suh is mentally unstable based on some of the questionable plays he’s accumulated over the years. But then you hear him speak and realize just how intelligent this guy really is.
However intelligent he may be, it's a good thing he has football to serve as an outlet for all the built-up aggression he clearly has. But hey, if you're going to have that much aggression in life, you might as well make a few million bucks with it.
Falling in the same vein as the younger Richard Sherman, Cortland Finnegan has made quite the career for himself in using psychological warfare against receivers as if he were Hannibal Lecter.
Finnegan has become a master at throwing players off of their game by acting like that fly that just won’t leave your food alone—the one that's too fast and smart to kill.
Finnegan's reputation as a dirty player may have been firmly cemented in history on the day he was able to get Andre Johnson to fight him in 2009. Perhaps Finnegan told Johnson he would eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Unfortunately for Troy Polamalu, he has thrown his body around in an aggressive manner for so long that he now appears to finally be breaking down.
Watching Polamalu play football throughout the year was like watching the Tasmanian Devil plow through a candy store in his traditional tornado-like fashion. His unique style of play has stood out for years, establishing him as one of more intense players to ever play in the NFL.
The only question now is how much longer can he continue to sacrifice his body in that way before it completely gives out?
In any case, it has been a thrill and an honor to witness.
Steve Smith may only be 5’9”, but if you were to measure a man by the size of his heart and by the way he plays the game, you might think he was the same size as Calvin Johnson.
Few receivers of any size have been able to break the impossible tackles thrown at Smith, or fight for jump balls over a guy two or three inches bigger than he is. Smith is by far the smallest man to make the list, but for good reason. His aggression is big.
Smith is only afraid of one thing come Sundays, and that happens to be letting the team down. It’s this very fear of failure that allows him to play the game the way he does: loaded with the passion, heart and intensity of a giant.
Justin Smith is one of those unique guys who you would never think has a ferocious side to him. Then you put on the tape and get to see a grown man driving Jermon Bushrod (315 pounds) of the New Orleans Saints nearly 10 yards back, directly into the lap of Drew Brees, before bringing them both to the ground with a single hand.
Smith is an interesting name on this list, because he is the only guy who seemed to increase his aggression as the years wore on.
With his unbelievable strength and endless motor, Smith dominates the game like few people can or ever will. There’s nothing pretty or athletic about what Smith does; he is neither fast nor quick on his feet in any way. All he really has to work with is strength and aggression, both of which have taken his game to places most never dreamed possible.
Ryan Riddle is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Before B/R, Ryan played for the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens.